Philip "Phil" Banks '73 April 27, 2023 4:05 PM updated: April 27, 2023 4:14 PM
Philip C. Banks
November 5, 1950 — December 12, 2022
A charismatic, kind, funny, and brilliant man, Philip Carl Banks passed away suddenly but peacefully on December 12, 2022.
Philip Carl Banks was born November 5, 1950 in Bryan, Texas. His parents were devoted Aggie football fans, and they attended the Texas A&M and Arkansas football game that day. The doctor was upset because he had to leave the game before the end in order to welcome Phil into the world (fortunately, the Aggies won). Phil loved his hometown and the people in it.
Phil graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in 1969. He sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the T.S. Texas Clipper with the maritime academy following high school and frequently reminisced about his adventures at sea. He returned home and obtained a bachelor's degree in sociology from Texas A&M University in 1973 and a Masters in Urban Planning from Texas A&M University in 1975.
In 1974, Phil met his true love, Martha Jane Clemmer Banks. They married in 1975 and celebrated their forty-seventh wedding anniversary this year. Phil worshiped Martha and worked hard every day to make her proud. When asked by his grandchildren to describe his favorite boss, he said, “I married her.”
Phil lived almost all of his life in Brazos County embedded in the legal community. His grandfather, William Edgar Neeley, was a successful lawyer, as were numerous uncles and cousins. With the love and support of Martha and relentless hard work, Phil obtained a law degree from St. Mary’s University in 1981. Phil returned to Bryan to practice law and went on to open his own practice on April 1, 1984. He loved joking about opening the office on April Fool’s Day.
In 1985, Phil became the College Station Chief Municipal Judge. He served in that capacity until 1992, and he was elected as the Director of the Texas Municipal Courts Association. Phil made national news when he held a monthly “Court in the Park” at Central Park in College Station.
Phil taught government, Texas history, and business law at Blinn College. He enjoyed teaching and was a natural educator. For a time, he also taught twice a week at the Pack 1 prison unit in Navasota. He said that the prisoners were some of his best students.
Phil had countless significant legal victories. Some of his most proud legal accomplishments included: ferociously defending individuals and a class of cancer patients in the Elf Atochem arsenic poisoning toxic tort case, successfully overturning the cause of death in the storied case of Henry Marshall which made international news, and fighting for citizens accused of serious crimes including in the Soldier of Fortune murder case. Phil always said that “everyone, no matter who they are or what they are accused of doing, deserves a good defense.” In 2009, his daughter Amy joined his practice and became his law partner at Banks & Banks, Attorneys at Law, P.C. Phil and Amy loved being a “father-daughter defense team.” He devoted his life to fighting for underdogs and the downtrodden and along with Martha inspired all of his daughters to pursue helping professions.
In 2009, in the midst of a contentious time in the local courthouse, Phil created Atticus Finch Day with his longtime friendly adversary, Shane Phelps. Atticus Finch Day is held annually to remind our local legal community about the importance of collegiality even in the relentless pursuit of justice.
Phil enjoyed mentoring young lawyers and giving heartfelt advice. He was happiest when he was telling a long and funny story with an audience. Phil was known throughout the community as a kind and good man, and he will be missed by many.
Although Phil’s prowess in the courtroom was legendary, he was most proud of being a father to his three daughters. Despite his work commitments, the girls do not remember Phil ever missing a sporting event, play, ceremony, or school event. He was the best father and was treasured by each of his children.
In his free time, Phil loved spending time with his Hereford cattle on his 5B Ranch in Iola. Phil was a walking encyclopedia of Texas history, and he was considered an expert on the JFK assassination and interviewed for many television programs.
Phil said that his life was completed when he became a PawPaw to his four grandchildren. His memory will undoubtedly be a blessing to them and to all who knew and loved him.
Philip was preceded in death by his father, a prominent professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, Dr. William C. Banks, devoted mother, Mrs. Amy Maurine Neeley Banks Hill, and his grandparents including his beloved Granny Amy Neeley who was the first female county superintendent of schools in Texas.
He is survived by the love of his life, his wife of forty-seven years, Martha, and three daughters, Amy Banks (and husband Donny Hall), Libby Banks, and Courtney Banks Smith (and husband Thomas Smith), his two adoring sisters, Bonnie Benson and Barbara Banks, niece Barbara Benson, his four cherished grandchildren, Philip Banks and Parker Banks, and Barron Smith and Nori Smith, and countless cousins, extended family, colleagues, friends, his wonderful law office staff, especially Mary Benad, and longtime employee and dear friend, Norris Foster.
Funeral services will be held at 2:00 pm on Monday, December 19, 2022 at the First United Methodist Church in Bryan, Texas, located next door to Phil’s law office. Father Dalton Ervin, one of Phil’s favorite mentees and former law office runner, will officiate.
Pallbearers include Lane Thibodeaux, Justice Steve Smith, Judge Roy Brantley, Aron Hutchins, Fred Medina, Joe Huckstep, Brent Vargo, John Grinstead, Neeley C. Lewis, Stuart Lewis, Norris Foster, and Donnie Manry.